A guest post by Fredrik Lassen (frega) of flink solutions and Reinhard Gloggengiesser (reglogge) of Wunderkraut.

There have been recent discussions about the maintainability and sustainability of Drupal core. They highlighted a significant lack in the number of skilled Drupal contributors. So the question is: how can we improve the quality of contributions and increase the quantity of skilled contributors?

Simple: strengthen contributors and bring new ones on board. DrupalCons are a great opportunity for that. They allow work that usually happens behind the scenes to become more visible. But currently, we only have a code sprint at the end of days, Armageddon, at which point everyone is exhausted and time is limited — ultimately ineffective.

We can improve on that! Let's kick off DrupalCon with a mentored contribution sprint on Monday. Let's place "contributing" at the heart of the conference. Let's provide a structured process for involving people of all levels of expertise to contribute throughout the conference. And let's make it fun, social, and visible.

Add new content.

Complement the code sprint with "mentoring sprints" starting on the day before the conference, parallel to the commercial trainings. Experienced Drupalists mentor small teams of aspiring contributors.

Goals:

  • Further increase the number of Drupal contributors.
  • Increase the skill level of existing contributors by learning directly from seasoned Drupalists.
  • Foster inclusive and sustainable practices for contributing to Drupal.

Not intended to:

  • Attempt certifications. (no, really not)
  • Distract from trainings.
  • Separate people into different classes like "rockstars" and "newbies."
  • Replace final code sprint on Friday.

Content

Mentoring sprints are not restricted to programming. Contributing to Drupal takes many forms - some concrete examples:

  • Code sprints, led by proficient core and contrib contributors
  • Documentation sprints, led by documentation team members
  • Usability sprints, led by usability team members
  • Triage sprints, to write issue summaries, patch reviews
  • Marketing sprints, to write case studies, preparing showcases
  • Translation sprints, led by translation team coordinators

Users, err... People

Mentoring sprints are not exclusive "elite" events; they address all levels of expertise. These sprints are for everyone; however:

  • We need to attract people who are already motivated to participate in the Drupal community.
  • Participants are required to be prepared for the topic in the sprint at hand.

Reasons for participating

  • Get mentored by "experts" — that is, people who just happen to know more than you in a certain area.
  • Give back to the community.
  • Be productive and have fun!

Structure

All mentoring sprints share a fixed pattern. In particular they

  • have a clear and manageable scope
  • consist of small teams (5-10 participants)
  • aim for tangible results within a short period of time (0.5 - 1 day in total)
  • could publicly showcase their progress and results in BoFs and sessions during DrupalCon
  • might even lead to appreciative exposure of outstanding contributors in the closing session of DrupalCon

Rules (of the game)

  • Parallel to commercial trainings.
  • No one gets paid.
  • Sprints are submitted by mentors before the conference.
  • Participants sign up for sprints, and there is a limited number of participants per sprint.

Modules

The following fun ideas will only be possible if there is sufficient interest and volunteer commitment to turn them into reality. If you like these optional modules, comment here and ask for a follow-up post about these "contrib" modules!

Contributor bar

Replace the coder rooms with a contributor lounge, a social "Contributor bar" (like the Genius bar). Don't make people shy away from contribution rooms. Essentially, just add a drink and coffee box.

Make them a central, inviting hub; a dedicated contributor lounge to have a space for these activities at the venue.

Achievements & Badges

Provide real, physical badges to honor participants and mentors for concrete achievements; e.g., "I participated in the Marketing sprint" or "I mentored a sprint" :)

Johan Falk started a mind-map on Drupal's learning achievements, and Heather James actively tries to bring more structure into these training topics.

Configuration

This will happen for DC Munich 2012.

What's needed for this to happen? We need sprint topics and mentors, and we need dedicated rooms at the conference on Monday.

Preparation

  • 5 months before: Call for mentors and define "topics." (Denver?)
  • 4 months before Select mentors and call for participants.
  • 2 months before: Select participants. Mentors brief participants about sprint topics.
  • 2 weeks before: Virtual/IRC meeting to prepare actual sprint tasks.

DrupalCon

  • Monday: Mentoring sprints (parallel to trainings)
  • During DrupalCon: BoFs, sessions, feedback
  • Afterwards: Retrospective (evaluation)

Help

We need feedback, volunteers, and central coordinators for the mentoring sprint day!

Tell us what you think.

Comments

Outstanding initiative. Let's make it happen in Denver too.

I'm in, of course if we can make teams focus on specific core tasks (in my case multilingual tasks, I'm sure to have stuff at that time too :). Agreed with Rfay, would be great to do it in Denver as well.

I'm a little concerned about the 5-10 people group size. Is that per mentor? To achieve clear goals in 1 day and get actual personal development out of it for individuals, I think 10 people are way too much (per one mentor). 5-6 sounds more achievable. The rest of the team would linger around and get disconnected. This happened on most sprints I've attended before. There are just people who don't bond right away unless you steer them actively.

Replace the coder rooms with a contributor lounge, a social "Contributor bar" (like the Genius bar). Don't make people shy away from contribution rooms. Essentially, just add a drink and coffee box.

This would be very awesome! Maybe just a 1-on-1 with new people and try to get them involved in a certain issue by just trying to replicate the issue. (any kind of issue) and report back on the issue with their name!

Another awesome idea would be the patch bingo but then in real life as a quiz?

Let's make it happen in Denver too.

This proposal is certainly not exclusive for Munich, but I seriously doubt that the DC Denver conference organization team is going to be able to account for the adjusted schedule, additionally required rooms and infrastructure on Monday this late. Not to mention the higher costs.

Normally, key dates and parameters are already set in stone at this point in time. If you ever had the chance to see the very large planning spreadsheet for DCs, then you understand how much really has to be coordinated and cared for, and why major topics need to be fixed very very early.

I think 10 people are way too much (per one mentor). 5-6 sounds more achievable.

Thanks! That's very useful input. I also think that 10 is the absolute upper limit. The manageable size might very well depend on the sprint topic.

That said, it would certainly be possible to have two mentors within one sprint. Though we need to be careful, as one essential part of the idea is diversity.

just a 1-on-1 with new people

Of course, a Contributor Lounge would allow for pretty much everything and be much more inviting.

The idea was caused by DrupalCity: There was an very welcoming lounge with drinks and coffee (funded by sponsors) and even tabletop soccer! We talked about the entity API design for Drupal core sitting right next to that, and it was fun! ;)

A lounge like that makes a HUGE difference.

I like the sprint idea a lot.

I can certainly understand why 5-months of advanced planning is appropriate for a sprint which will occur at a major conference.

I wonder if more "sprint"-like sprints could be arranged, online and more frequently. Perhaps "office hours" meets this need.

As someone who wants and needs to be mentored that sounds really good. It is somewhat difficult to find a way to contrib to the drupal community. Your ideas may help to improve that. We will see that in munich - I hipe!!

Thanks.

I don't now if Denver could get this rolling in time, but I hope so. Count me in to help mentor, or even just answer random questions that I happen to know the answer to. :-)

love the idea!
only comment/concern: this is potentially competing with the actual trainings. People that would choose a focused training, may choose the mentorship day instead, thinking that they will receive the same level of knowledge/expertise as in a training.

Any ideas of how to position the two events so there is no confusion?

I think this is a great idea and would definitely participate.
With some concrete objectives in mind it might also be pretty productive.
floretan mentioned that there could be some kind of system
for protégé/e's that if you participate in the mentoring sprint you must then mentor someone else.
The Genius/Mentor Bar is pure genius ! (using the word "Bar" is also sure to attract many people)
I think by clearly communicating that the mentoring is focused on "learning how to contribute to Drupal" rather than "learning Drupal" confusion with training can be avoided.

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